Tag Archives: Drinking water

Amusing Monday: World Water Day inspires photos and videos

World Water Day, coming up on Wednesday, is an annual event first established by the United Nations in 1992 to focus on the importance of freshwater and to encourage actions to provide clean drinking water while reducing water-borne illness around the world.

This year’s theme, waste water, was formulated into a question that creates a double meaning. It can be either “Why waste water?” or “Why wastewater?” The first question emphasizes the water-supply issues associated with World Water Day. The second emphasizes the closely related health aspects of sanitation. For a serious discussion of these two questions, listen to the talk on YouTube by Guy Ryder, director general of the International Labour Organization and chairman of UN-Water.

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Rainfall drops below average, but deep wells should be fine this year

Rainfall in most of Kitsap County was fairly normal or slightly above average until April, when the spring rains basically stopped. The lack of rain has led to extreme conditions, as anyone can see by looking at the dry vegetation across Western Washington.

Silverdale

The total rainfall has now fallen below normal in most areas of Kitsap County, as shown by the maps on this page. That below-average condition is unlikely to change without some uncharacteristic rainstorms between now and the end of the “water year” on Oct. 1.

The Kitsap Peninsula, like islands throughout Puget Sound, does not rely on snowpack for its water supplies, so a shortage of drinking water is unlikely. The one exception might be residents who rely on private shallow wells, some of which could start to dry up by the end of summer, according to Bob Hunter, manager of Kitsap Public Utility District.

Deeper aquifers used by most major water systems on the peninsula are not affected by a single year’s weather. It takes time for the water to trickle down to the deeper layers, where groundwater levels reflect the pattern of rainfall occurring over several years.

Holly

The soils and topography vary so greatly from one place to another that nobody can say how soon shallow wells will be affected. Some wells depend on springs or surface infiltration, while others tap into aquifers with adequate supply. The rate of withdrawal, including the number of homes in a given area, can have an effect on water supply.

Although the deeper aquifers are not likely to be affected this year, what if we are at the beginning of a dry period that lasts three years or more? I would hate to look back on my current water usage and regret not saving water when I had the chance. To a varying extent, conserving water can protect our water supplies and help the overall ecosystem.

In addition to affecting aquifers, the lack of rain has reduced streamflows in creeks and rivers to below-normal rates throughout the county. The resulting low flows could affect coho salmon, which spend a year in freshwater. The fall salmon migration will be mostly affected by whether rains show up to saturate the soils and raise stream levels in September and October.

Hansville

Bob Hunter says the per-capita use of water has been dropping, but he’s not sure how much of the change is a result of personal choices and how much is a result of new kitchen and bathroom fixtures required by plumbing codes. Low-flush toilets and low-flow faucets can really make a difference, he said.

People use large amounts of water on their lawns, so one long-term effort is to reduce the amount of grass and thirsty vegetation that homeowners maintain while improving the soil to increasing its water-holding capacity.

“This year, people are irrigating a lot earlier than they were in the past,” Bob told me. “That has to have an impact, especially if the summer stays dry the whole way.”

The key to protecting future water supplies on the Kitsap Peninsula is for everyone to change their habitats over time by finding ways to use less water. If people understand the trickle-down theory of aquifers, they might be less inclined to take our water for granted.

For more information, see the Kitsap PUD’s webpage on “Groundwater and Aquifers,” including an informative piece from the Environmental Protection Agency called “Build Your Own Aquifer.” The PUD also offers a list of “Frequently Asked Questions.” For details about lawns, see King County’s “Natural Lawn Care.”

Streams in Kitsap County have dropped significantly in their flows (cubic feet per second). ALL GRAPHICS FROM KITSAP PUBLIC UTILITY DISTRICT
Streams in Kitsap County have dropped significantly in their flows (cubic feet per second).
ALL GRAPHICS FROM KITSAP PUBLIC UTILITY DISTRICT

Amusing Monday: Waste to water provides a drink for Jimmy Fallon

Jimmy Fallon and Bill Gates together make an interesting combination. One is about finding new ways to solve serious world problems, while the other is looking for new ways to surprise and delight people.

Bill gates recently challenged Jimmy Fallon to the “ultimate taste test” involving two glasses of water. Jimmy would try to tell the difference between bottled water and sewage effluent from an innovative treatment plant built in Sedro Woolley, south of Bellingham. As you’ll see from the video, there was a bit of trickery involved.

In his blog, “Gates Notes,” Bill Gates describes the Omniprocessor, designed by Janicki Bioenergy of Washington state. A video on that page (shown here) demonstrates how the processor works, with an ending in which Gates drinks water that had been in the form of human feces just minutes before.

Gates makes the most of this humorous but deadly serious issue, knowing that one of the greatest health threats in the developing world is contaminated drinking water — and that a machine could help solve the problem.

The Omniprocessor burns dried human waste as fuel to dry more waste as it comes into the plant, providing an endless supply of fuel that can be burned at a very high temperature, thus controlling air emissions. The drying process produces steam, which can run a generator for electricity. The water vapor is cooled and goes through a final filter to produce clean drinking water.

I’ve read many articles written about the Omniprocessor over the past month, but Mark Stayton of the Skagit Valley Herald wrote the most informative piece I’ve seen.

A working prototype is scheduled to be fabricated this spring in Dakar, Senegal, West Africa, and go into use soon after. Graphics and photos are available on the Omniprocessor home page.

I’ll be interested to see how this entire operation works in practice. Not much is said about getting the waste to the machine. Apparently, some locations have trucks that pump out latrines and then dump the untreated waste someplace else, risking contamination to groundwater or surface water. Transportation of the waste/fuel might be less of an issue in cities with inadequate sewage-treatment plants, but I don’t know how efficient trucks would be in rural areas, where roads are often a problem.

Anyway, I will try to keep you informed about the Omniprocessor and similar technology in the months to come.

Kitsap rains: not too much, not too little for salmon and aquifers

The on-and-off rains over the past two weeks are nearly perfect for both spawning salmon and for recharging shallow groundwater supplies, experts say.

Chum salmon in Chico Creek. Kitsap Sun photo
Chum salmon in Chico Creek.
Kitsap Sun photo

For October, total rainfall ranges from about 5 inches at Hansville to 12 inches at Holly, according to rain gauges managed by the Kitsap Public Utility District. Fortunately, those rains have not been delivered to us in only a few days.

The intermittent nature of October rains has allowed the streams to maintain their flows without flooding. They’ve also allowed infiltration into the ground without excessive runoff.

“It is the good kind of rain,” said Bob Hunter, interim manager of Kitsap PUD. “We’ve had a couple of days when we’ve had 2-plus inches, but we haven’t seen the streams flash.”

In other words, the streams have not risen excessively fast. Bob attributes that to how dry the ground was before the rains began. Soils were able to absorb much of the early rainfall before stormwater runoff began to increase. Pauses between the rainstorms allowed more of the water to soak into the ground.

“It just goes to show you the variability that we have around here,” Bob told me.

October marks the beginning of the 2015 “water year.” Although we are just a month into the start of the year, the rainfall has been closely tracking all-time highs at some rain gauges — including Holly, which has been monitored since 1999. (See charts below.)

Meanwhile, the rain pattern in October was nearly perfect for salmon, said Jon Oleyar of the Suquamish Tribe, who walks the East Kitsap streams to count migrating salmon as they arrive.

“It seems like we’ve had storms coming in every couple of days, so they are not right on top of each other,” Jon said. “That gives the streams some time to recede.”

When there is not adequate flow, the salmon often wait for the streams to rise. On the other hand, too much flow can wash salmon eggs out of the streambed.

Last week’s rains got the chum salmon moving into most of the East Kitsap streams, Jon told me.

“I checked Chico Creek on Wednesday, and there were almost 11,000 fish in there and going up about as far as they can get,” he said.

A good escapement for the Chico Creek system is between 12,000 and 15,000 chum, and there is still more than a month left — assuming a typical timing of the run, he said. But things are looking a little different this year, he noted, and the bulk of the run may have arrived already.

One indication that timing could be different this year is that Gorst Creek already has a fair number of chum salmon — perhaps 500 — yet the Gorst Creek run usually comes in later and continues well into December.

Is it possible that all or most of the salmon runs are coming in early? It’s a question that only time will answer.

Jon told me that he’s a bit water-logged at the moment, trying to count fish in the rain with the streams running high.

“I’m pretty happy about it,” Jon said. “I have my fish up where they need to be, but it’s just hard to count them right now. If you’re a fish, this is really working for you.”

In the charts below, found on the Kitsap PUD’s website, you can see that October’s rainfall has been tracking the record high rainfall at these stations. Of course, the “water year” has barely begun, so anything can happen. (Click on images to enlarge.)

Rain-Holly

Rain-CK

Rain-Hansville

Amusing Monday: Celebrating World Water Day

I’m posting this “Amusing Monday” entry two days early, because today is officially World Water Day, as declared by the United Nations.

Photo by xxxx. Copyright World Water Day, used with permission
Photo by Murli Menon.
Copyright World Water Day, used with permission

I guess the timing is not that important. After all, I don’t expect anyone to go out and march in a World Water Day parade, or fire off water pistols in celebration, or even drink water in excess and then sleep in the next morning. But if you are inclined to celebrate, you may as well celebrate the essential value of water.

The photos on this page are the top choices of Facebook voters in a contest sponsored by World Water Day.

The picture of the white tiger, called “Water Preserves the Earth,” is said to demonstrate that all creatures need water, yet the tiger realizes that this water is polluted and hesitates to drink it.

Photo by Joseph Galea Copyright World Water Day, used with permission
Photo by Joseph Galea
Copyright World Water Day, used with permission

The second photo, called “Water Gives Energy,” illustrates the hope of a future when all children have access to a safe supply of water.

A slide show of the best photos submitted in the context can be found on the World Water Day Flickr page.

Finally, the two videos below provide a strong contrast between technologies available to produce a clean supply of water for everyone.

Amusing Monday: Water connections to Christmas

I’m on vacation this week, so I thought I’d offer the “Amusing Monday” from last year at this time. I posted the following on Dec. 24, 2012. It includes a Matt Damon video from the year before and some Christmas riddles from four years ago.
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Last year, actor Matt Damon dressed as Santa Claus and allowed children to tell him what they wanted for Christmas. All the while, he kept trying to convince them that what they really wanted was a stainless-steel or plastic water bottle.

I found the video amusing, but there is a serious message behind his charity, which is raising money to bring clean water to impoverished parts of the world.

After Matt Damon did this video, reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA Today wrote about his effort and other charitable connections between water and Christmas. It was called “Charities give Christmas gift of water.”

In September of this year, Charlie Rose, the PBS interviewer, conducted an extended conversation with Matt Damon and Gary White, founders of Water.org, with offices in the U.S., India and Kenya.

A totally different connection between water and Christmas was provided by a bunch of water-sports enthusiasts who got together on the Potomac River on Christmas Eve last year to do their thing dressed as Santa, his reindeer and the Grinch. AFP provides the video on YouTube.

Some of you will enjoy this video of a dog who received an unusual Christmas gift. His owners piled up plastic water bottles to form a large triangle on the floor and let the dog go at it. In typical form, the energetic dog quickly demolished the structure and began chewing on one of the bottles.

As an added bonus, I’ve reprieved some silly Christmas riddles from a Water Ways entry posted three years ago. I hope they can bring you a smile. If you know a good Christmas riddle (a clean one, please) feel free to add it in the comment section below.

What do you get if Santa goes down the chimney when a fire is lit?
Crisp Kringle

What do you have in December that’s not in any other month?
The letter “D”

Where do snowmen go to dance?
A snow ball

What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus?
Claustrophobic

What do you call an old snowman?
Water!

Did Rudolph go to a regular school?
No, he was elf-taught

What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?
Frostbite!

Why was Santa’s little helper depressed?
He had low elf esteem

Why does Scrooge love all of the reindeer?
Because every buck is dear to him

What do you call Santa when he has no money?
Saint “Nickel”-less

What do you sing at a snowman’s birthday party?
Freeze a jolly good fellow!

What happened when the snowgirl broke up with the snowboy ?
She gave him the cold shoulder

Amusing Monday: Matt Damon continues toilet strike

Hearing reviews about actor Matt Damon’s performance in the upcoming sci-fi thriller “Elysium” reminded me to check on Damon’s progress with water.org, the organization he co-founded to help bring clean water to all parts of the world.

Clean water is a life-and-death issue in many third-world countries. But Damon has strategically avoided preaching to people in his fund-raising campaign for clean water. Instead, he is using humor quite effectively, I think, which is why I found a place for him in Water Ways last Christmas.

Since then, Matt has come out with some new videos, including the one shown on this page that features the Live Prude Girls of YouTube fame.

Following in this humorous vein is his call for a “toilet strike,” in which he pledges not to go to the bathroom until all people have access to clean water. View the “press conference” he held to announce the strike, along with videos of support by 1) Jason Bateman, Jessica Biel and Josh Gad, and 2) Bono, Richard Branson and Olivia Wilde.

Matt Damon also lends his voice to a cartoon, which brings out some of the same issues. After watching these videos, you will know that more people have cell phones than access to clean water, along with other facts that frame the need for action.

Damon talks about World Toilet Day being Nov. 19. I’m not sure if he invented that day or if he plans to do something special for the occasion, but I’ll stay tuned and bring you the latest.

Meanwhile, a profile of Matt Damon by Decca Aitkenhead was published Friday in The Guardian. The article talks about his personal life, his new movie and his approach to charities, including water.org.

As for the accomplishments of water.org, check out the Projects Page to see what the organization has been doing.

Amusing Monday: 20 questions about H2O

This week, I looked for some interesting facts about water and created the following 20-question quiz. Find the answers below along with the various sources of the information.

Image: U.S. Department of Energy

1. If an adult’s body is 70 percent water, what percentage of water is an infant’s body?
A) 60 percent
B) 70 percent
C) 80 percent
D) 90 percent

2. How much of the Earth’s surface is covered by water?
A) 60-65 percent
B) 70-75 percent
C) 80-85 percent
D) 90-95 percent

3) An average person uses from 80 to 100 gallons of water a day. Excluding lawn-watering, the largest water use by an individual results from:
A) Flushing the toilet
B) Cooking and drinking
C) Taking a bath or shower
D) Water fights
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Drawings offer student perspective on drinking water

If you like the first-place winner in the coloring contest for National Drinking Water Week, then check out the other three winners at the bottom of this entry. Click “Read the rest of this entry.”
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Jacquelynn Gehring, a second-grade student in Sheri Stambaugh’s class at Crownhill Elementary School, was named the top winner in a recent coloring contest sponsored by the city of Bremerton.

Jacquelynn Gehring's winning picture in Bremerton's coloring contest for National Drinking Water Week
Drawing courtesy of City of Bremerton

The contest was promoted as part of National Drinking Water Week. This year’s theme was “Water is Important to Me Every Day.”

Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent presented awards to the winning students at a City Council meeting on May 16.

The other winners are Alaura Mercereau, second-place, and Emalee Wheaton, third place, both from Crownhill. An honorable mention was awarded to Destiny Hoaeae from Naval Avenue Elementary School.

Their pictures will be entered into a national Drinking Water Week contest sponsored by the American Water Works Association.

Kathleen Cahall, Bremerton’s water resources manager, has done a good job promoting National Drinking Water Week, a time to recognize actions at the local, state and national levels that ensure that we have the cleanest water in the world.

Kathleen offered this comment in a news release:

“Drinking Water Week is an opportunity to focus on the importance of water, which is too easily overlooked. A safe, reliable water supply is essential to the success of any community. In addition to keeping us healthy, safe water also supports the economy, provides fire protection and provides us with the high quality of life we enjoy.”

Here are the remaining winners:
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Time to reflect on drinking water quality, history

This week is National Drinking Water Week, a chance to recognize the high quality of water we drink in the United States and how we built and maintain the amazing storage and piping networks.

The video at right shows some interesting pictures of water systems in Kitsap County. It takes a bit of reading to get through it, but the video reminds us that the area — and most areas — started out with many surface-water systems and now relies mostly on groundwater.

The history of Bremerton’s water system, which still includes a highly protected surface-water supply on the Union River, is described briefly on the city’s website.

Drinking Water Week is a chance to review the water quality of our own drinking water, at least for those of us on public water systems. The EPA requires most systems to provide information to their customers once a year. Accessing this information at other times is not always easy, although most of the larger systems post the required water-quality data on their websites.

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